Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Runoff elections explained
A runoff election is a second election held after no candidates fulfill the designated victory requirements in their first run. Along with nine other states, Georgia requires a simple majority voter count as a victory requirement. This practice is most common in the South, which has a prolonged history of one party rule — it was implemented in large part to incentivize candidates to appeal to a wider voting base, while disincentivizing ideological extremes of a certain party. Since 1988, there have been 7 statewide runoffs in Georgia, and Democrats have managed to win just 1 of the 7.
The implementation of runoff elections has been scrutinized, with many individuals supporting ranked choice voting, a form of “instant runoff elections”, rather than traditional runoff elections. This is mainly due to many concerns regarding a drop of voter participation, which some claim will lead to an inaccurate representation of the district’s preferences.
Significance of Georgia Runoff Elections
The current senate race in Georgia is extremely consequential, as it could lead to a slight Democratic majority in the Senate. Although both Democratic candidates winning in Georgia would not give Democrats a simple majority (it would result in a 50-50 split), it would give them de facto control — Kamala Harris, as vice-president, would be called upon to be the deciding vote. Subsequently, this would allow president-elect Joe Biden to have a clear path to confirming cabinet members, appointing judges, and delivering on progressive campaign promises.
Developments prior to the runoff showed promise for the Democratic campaign’s potential to flip the formally red state of Georgia — one in particular being higher youth voter turnout and lower youth political apathy. Grassroots movements, such as StudentsFor2020, played a substantial role in this , by enlisting 65,000 students in the general election.
However, republican candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue held potentially decisive advantages in some aspects of the race. For one, their campaigns held a substantial edge in terms of funding — $77.2 million to $49.3 million.
Both Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff & Raphael Warnock share a common theme in their campaign strategy and platform— an emphasis on transforming the healthcare industry in America. Warnock’s campaign site states that he’s running “to fight for affordable health care, protect voting rights, and ensure the dignity of working people.” Ossoff also places an emphasis on reducing the correlation between wealth and quality healthcare. However, he does not support a Medicare for All plan, but rather a public option.
Another primary focus of their campaigns includes revitalizing the economy during the recession, and part of that entails investing in clean energy. Ossoff and Warnock both support the development of an infrastructure plan that includes massive investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and environmental protections. They also share a mutual desire to re-enter the U.S. into the Paris Climate Accords.
Purdue has run a boldly negative campaign against his opposing candidate Ossoff; with a total of six campaign ads run against him, labeling him terms such as “radical” and “liar”. This isn’t an uncommon theme amongst right wing candidates, who have tendencies to refer to center left political figures as “radical leftists”; so frequently that it has caused infighting in the democratic party, with centrist members blaming more liberal candidates for being easy to paint as socialist.
On the republican side of the ballot, Kelly Loefner and Perdue have made promises on championing ideals regarding free trade. From her self-proclaimed experience growing up on a family farm, she states that she has experienced firsthand the impact of “burdensome” government regulations and protectionist ideals, which she cites as a primary reason for supporting deregulation. David Perdue himself has exemplified these beliefs through his policy, by having a history of cutting taxes for corporations and rolling back Dodd-Frank Regulations.
As of Jan. 6th, 2021, both Warnock and Ossoff have won the Georgia Senate Regular and Special Elections, securing a de-facto Senate majority for the Democrats. After Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell controversially opposed the proposed $2000 stimulus, president-elect Joe Biden took the opportunity in the final few days before the Georgia Senate runoff election to advocate for Ossoff and Warnock.“If you send [Perdue and Loeffler] back to Washington, those checks will never get there. It’s just that simple. The power is literally in your hands,” Biden said.
Ossoff and Warnock’s victories have been met by stark opposition from numerous prominent Republican figures. President Donald Trump maintained his unsubstantiated claim of mass voter fraud, stating “There’s no way we lost Georgia. I had two elections. I won both of them.” Regardless, both Ossoff and Warnock will be sworn in by January 22nd, once election results are fully confirmed by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Through Teen Lenses: Have you heard about the Georgia Runoff Elections and do you agree with the concept of runoff elections? Do you think Biden will be able to fulfill his campaign promises if he doesn’t have control of the senate?
“This is the first time I am hearing about the election status in Georgia. With little to no prior knowledge about this system, I am more favorable to the idea of the ranked choice format rather than the runoff elections. I believe that a ranked choice format would allow people to have more of a say in the results of an election. For example, if people knew the results of the presidential election, during a runoff election for the senate they may vote for a different candidate to give the president more or less power. Along with this, I think it is best if Biden does not win the senate because he would have no power restrictions. The senate and house act as checks and balances to the president, but with a majority in both the house and the senate the president’s power is unchecked.” Matthew Rand, 15, Rising Sophomore at McLean High School, McLean, VA
“The runoff elections in Georgia will provide the people with an opportunity to truly choose one winner. In the current situation, neither candidate has a majority, but a second election could allow for people who voted for a third party to cast their vote and make sure their voice is also heard. Additionally, I hope the democrats will win the senate so President Biden will be able to serve the country as he promised during his campaign. This is why people voted for him, and thus he needs to win the senate to show people he will do what he says.” Rachit Raval, 15, Rising Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School, Alexandria, VA
“I personally dislike the idea of a runoff election. I understand that some states require at least a 50% vote in favor of one candidate, but logistically the idea of holding another election sounds like a nightmare. The organization and paperwork required in short notice could lead to more miscalculation and mistakes in general. To me it seems like a big part of Biden’s ideology is to unite the people. If he were to win the senate, the power would be completely in the hands of the democrats, which wouldn’t truly represent the people so in that regard I don’t think he needs to win the senate. However if he did win the senate, it would be a huge plus for him, as he would have a lot of power and support for his policies.” Julie Kang, 15, Rising Sophomore at Hayfield High School, Alexandria, VA